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Raspberry Pi Turns 4

This weekend it’s Raspberry Pi’s 4th birthday party! The Pi was one of the first powerful computers to go micro-sized, putting computing and coding into the hands of everyone from professionals to school students. Before we light the birthday candles and get ready to eat some birthday ‘pie’, we’re taking a quick look at some of the most impressive Pi projects from the last 4 years …

2012 | Raspberry Pi Supercomputer

In 2012 Professor Simon Cox led an amazing project at University of Southampton. Excited by the prospect of low-cost powerful computing and propelled to get more people into engineering in schools and at home, Cox and his team built the first ever supercomputer using 64 Raspberry Pis. Each Pi was responsible for a different computer command, altogether powerful enough to teach about the basic principles of supercomputing. The Pis lived in custom-built lego casing, which was prototyped by the team and Cox’s 6-year-old son.

Professor Cox explains how the Pis communicate with each other to form the super computer system in a short video: “In order to use all of these computers together you use a message passing interface (MPI) that allows you to send messages from one processor into another processor, and then you divide up your tasks so that each computer is working on a small part of a very big problem.”

2013 | Erica the Rhino

Another impressive creation from the University of Southampton is Erica the Rhino. Erica is a life-sized rhino model that responds to movements nearby and web activities such as tweets and controls over smartphones. Raspberry Pi computers inside Erica control cameras, motors, sounds and lights, basically acting like mini web servers that interact with each other. The Rhino even provides its own WIFI connection so people can use their phones to affect her ‘mood’ and watch her responses.

2014 | After Dark at the Tate

After Dark was a four night experience at Tate Britain,Tate Modern and online. Design studio The Workers created a collection of robots powered by Raspberry Pi, that wondered around the Tate collections after dark, sending footage of their illuminated discoveries to a live video stream online. The robots were particularly mobile, with the ability to look up and down at artworks and sense obstacles in close range with ultrasound technology.

Some fortunate participants had a chance to control the Pi-powered bots from home, including the astronaut Chris Hadfield: “You start to forget what you’re really doing and you just become curious about the painting itself, and the robot…just becomes an extension of your mind. That’s how technology ought to be.”

2015 | The Astro Pi

In 2015 the Raspberry Pi Foundation joined forces with the UK space agency, ESA and the UK Space Trade Association to run the Astro Pi competition. School students were asked to develop ideas for what the Raspberry Pi could do for astronaut Tim Peake at the International Space Station. Winning ideas included radiation detectors, life support system checkers and image processing.

The Astro Pi unit is made up of a Raspberry Pi, Camera module, Infrared camera module, as well as the sense HAT and flight case, which were developed especially for the project.

2016 | The Pi-rate Radio

A group in Berlin have using the Raspberry Pi’s valuable and low cost features to their advantage, to develop a radio that transmit inside war-disrupted Syrian territory. PocketFM runs off a car battery and uses a satellite dish to pick up radio frequencies. The fact that it doesn’t need mains electricity, an internet connection or a mobile phone signal to function means that important messages and updates can reach civilians in up to a 3 mile radius, where other communication systems may have broken down.

2016 and beyond!

With the launch of the Pi Zero last fall and the recent unveiling of the Pi 3, the future is looking bright for Raspberry Pi users. There’s sure to be some fruitful crossover once our very own hat, the Pi Cap, launches later this year, so keep watching this space!